Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and pal of the Clintons, has taken it on the chin again.
McAuliffe unleashed a major effort to capture the Virginia senate with help from ex-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent more than $1 million in anti-gun ads in two critical districts. But while Democrats held the targeted seat in northern Virginia, Republicans retained the other in the Richmond suburbs.
The result: Republicans kept control of the senate, 21-19. They also maintained their large majority in the state house. As for McAuliffe, he was thwarted once again by Republicans.
He now faces the strong possibility his record of significant achievements will be a blank page. Virginia has a one-term rule for governors, which means McAuliffe must leave office after the 2017 election.
His chief foe, house speaker William Howell, said he “can’t think of anything” important that McAuliffe has gotten through the legislature since he was elected governor in 2013. He has failed to expand Medicaid, his top priority, and once more faces a Republican legislature opposed to his ideas for gun control.
Things would be different – and far more auspicious for McAuliffe – if Democrats had taken control of the Senate. All he needed was a net pickup on one seat. Then Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam would have been the tie-breaking vote in a 20-20 Senate. That would have enabled Democrats to organize the Senate.
Republicans figured the Senate would pass a budget requiring the expansion of Medicaid, as called for in Obamacare. And that would create an impasse with the House, leading to a compromise in which McAuliffe gained ground. At least that was the fondest dream of the governor and Democrats.
As things stand, McAuliffe is left with economic development as a top accomplishment. Yet he hasn’t produced much there. The deal bringing a Chinese paper plant to Virginia was arranged mostly by the prior administration of GOP governor Bob McDonnell. A new brewery in Richmond will provide only 88 jobs. Meanwhile, the federal budget’s sequestration provision has caused the loss of 1,500 in Newport News.
When the legislature meets in January, the governor is also likely to face rejection of his appointee to the state supreme court, Jane Marum Roush. Republicans oppose her because McAuliffe didn’t follow the normal practice of consulting the House on judicial appointments.
“She won’t get re-appointed,” Howell said. “We feel we’ve got a better candidate.” The Republican choice is Rossie D. Alston Jr., currently a judge on the court of appeals.
One more worry for McAuliffe is the 2016 presidential race. The Washington Post noted that he is left “without legislative leverage or political momentum as he works to deliver Virginia for his friend and ally Hillary Clinton in 2016. President Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012.
Howell, the speaker since 2003, was reelected with 60 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. His Stafford County district is in the distant exurbs of Washington, D.C. “It used to be hard red,” he said, but now is less so.